02/09/2017

Religion Vs Relationship

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:17 am by The Water Bearer

People Often Misjudge

I can hear the whispers, whispers from people who think they once knew me. Now that I have begun sharing my faith in a more public forum, the whispers are hovering… “She’s changed, She’s gone all religious!”

I understand that those who never really knew me may think that I must have turned some huge corner in my set of beliefs, because I’ve never looked like your average “Christian” on the outside. I’m far too open about my brokenness, my flaws are too boisterous to be hidden away. I am much too concerned about breaking curses inside, than focusing on a mask of goodness on the outside. I try to live in the freedom of authenticity, fully aware of my lack of perfection.

The truth is, I’ve held the same beliefs for my entire life. My first prayer was answered when I was 8 years old, and I have felt a unique connection to God ever since. The reason I may not look or act like your stereotypical “Christian” may be because my faith was never nurtured in a church environment, so I find it quite bizarre, that I am now the founder of an incredible Scripture-Based Wellness program like Sanctuary Stretch!

To be completely honest, I like being called religious about as much as most people like being called “sinners”. In fact I prefer admitting myself as a sinner, far more than religious or even Christian. I have plenty of faith and devotion, Im just put off by the picture that those words conjure up. Religion did a real number on me, my family and many of my loved ones, and probably many of yours too. In my history, to be called religious was the biggest insult going. It deemed you unfit for human interaction, it exiled you from your family and labeled you crazy! 

The word ‘Heretic’ is probably closer to the right title for me. Now before you go grab your torch and pitchfork, hear me out. A heretic is someone who strongly opposes an established belief. Therefore, if the established belief is that you must look perfect on the outside, and go to a particular church regularly, and walk, talk and act like all others in that church, in order to be saved, then yes I strongly oppose!

Obviously not everyone in Christian circles are guilty of promoting this belief, many are genuine and humble, they accept that God is working with everyone everywhere. But even still, as a whole, ‘playing God’ and misjudgment is rife and much damage has been done.

1 Samuel 16:7 “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Inauthentic Connections

We are biologically designed to search for a place where we fit. A community. A tribe. We’re easily tempted to change our outsides to fit in with a particular group, rather than to stand in authenticity and risk being rejected or ridiculed. I always felt like a round peg looking for a place to fit, but everywhere I went I found people who inflicted guilt trips in order to shave a bit off me here and there to get me to fit into their square hole. A relationship with God can not be forced, coerced or manipulated, just as with any genuine relationship. It grows in our hearts as we engage transparently, more and more, which is a very difficult thing for humans to assess from the outside.

Guilt is a powerful tool to promote conformity, but the desire for external acceptance often causes us to miss the whole point of faith entirely. We were all made with extreme diversity. Billions of humans designed to be unique and complex, to have different experiences and hearts that soften under different circumstances, can not, and should not have to be all on the exact same narrow path in order to experience a true relationship with their creator. Thinking this way only promotes disingenuous mindlessness, following the herd, which scarily only pushes our flaws deeper within, where they can fester and poison us even further, and then threaten future generations dramatically.

The even scarier part is that when we have perfected our mask, and found a tribe that accepts us, we no longer desperately need a Saviour. Our relationship with God then also lacks the authenticity vital for changing our hearts.

He Came For The Broken

So if I am not “religious” why am I promoting faith? And what kind of faith am I promoting?

My faith walk has not consisted of sitting in a comfy church chair, with a neatly pressed suit, and the fruits of the spirit on show for all to see. My walk has been more like a bloopers reel. From the outside you would have seen, a terrified thumb-sucker, who grew to dabble with drugs and promiscuity for ‘tribe’ approval. A teen mum with a hideous emotionally manipulative nature. A young Mum involved in a car accident that wiped out my ability to function and achieve, taking my self-worth along for the ride, leaving me injured, anxious, depressed and battling sucidal thoughts. I’ve had numerous health concerns, panic attacks and car phobia, I’ve been dependant on countless prescription drugs and always been more comfortable around a pool table than a pulpit. Pretty much my entire faith walk has consisted of me wrestling with inner enemies, falling flat on my face, turning my heart towards Christ for His guidance and abundant Grace and being set on my feet over and over and over again.

Along this journey it may have appeared that I was far from God, and far from saved, but I can assure you that God made His awesome presence felt every single step of the way. My relationship with Him grew as my faith did, I came to depend on Him a little more, and a little more. Each time I fell was a chance to give Him more and more control over my heart and my life. He never once let me down! Every inch of suffering on that road has been filled with intention and meaning. SLOWLY refining me, as is still the case!

I have come across many people in this life, who feel far too broken to put themselves in the firing line of a religious group. Those unwilling and unable to pretend they have the fruits of the spirit flowing from every orifice. I can testify that I actually FELT the fruits of the spirits being developed and experienced inside of me, long before anyone else could see them on the outside. God knows, Men don’t!

Breaking the Myth

Somewhere along the way a myth began to surface in Christian circles, that being ‘saved’ is an attractive process. We conjure up pictures of saints volunteering their time to a worthy cause with no thought for self, we picture hands raised in worship and wide smiles on faces. We picture sanity, health and prosperity, and a multitude of Christian Brothers and Sisters united in compassion and joy. We picture political correctness and perfect manners. Truth be told, the process of becoming ‘reborn’ requires complete destruction and then reconstruction, a public death accompanied with humiliation. It is a life long marathon, not a sprint. It can not be rushed. It is never a pretty sight to become desperate for God to do a work in us. Hungering and thirsting for the Word is born from intense periods of the inner war.  God is thorough if nothing else, He is not willing for us to just sit the test, He wants us to get an A+. Which of course means being tested and tested and tested again. Each time, a new level of self-deception is revealed and a new piece of truth replaces it.

And lets not kid ourselves into thinking for one minute that once we have turned our own hearts inside out and had them purified that we are going to look all shiny and new. Absolutely not, we then begin interceding for the generational curses in our families, and after that we carry the yoke of our ministries and communities. As long as we walk this earth we have more purging to be done.

A Place to Fit

The reason I have such a passion to now share my experiences of faith in such a public way, is because everyone deserves a little encouragement to turn their hearts to God. It’s far from an easy road and trying to overcome the obsticles of life without God is something I wouldn’t want to inflict on anyone. Its one thing to be separated from God because we chose that in our hearts, but its an entirely different ball of wax to feel separated from God because we are too broken to pretend we aren’t broken. Or battling too many inner enemies to worry about how offensive our external smoke-screen is. Or put off by religiosity and misjudgment.

Intimacy with God is personal, private, and often painful. But it is only with His strength that we get through it and come out a little better each time. My hope is that no matter where you are on your faith walk, you feel the need to take time out from distractions and expectations, to turn your hearts to Him and enter God’s presence. That is what Sanctuary Stretch hopes to encourage. Whether you are needing to fill your cup in order to pour into the lives of others going through trials, or if you need your cup filling because you are being emptied daily by your own trials.

All can benefit from a true intimate relationship with God, if they are willing.

Romans 10:13 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 

8 Comments »

  1. Sheila said,

    A amazing and humbling article my friend. All your posts are amazing but this one really, really hits close to my heart. So true, God comes to save a poor sinner. Psalter 140… God be merciful to me, On thy grace I rest my plea; Plenteous in compassion Thou, Blot out my transgressions now; Wash me, make me pure within, Cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin. My transgressions I confess, Grief and guilt my soul oppress; I have sinned against thy grace And provoked Thee to thy face; I confess Thy judgement just, Speechless, I Thy mercy trust. I am evil, born in sin; Thou desirest truth within. Thou alone my saviour art, Teach thy wisdom to my heart; Make me pure, Thy grace bestow, Wash me whiter than the snow. Broken, humbled to the dust, By Thy wrath and judgement just, Let my contrite heart rejoice And in gladness hear Thy voice; From my sins O hide Thy face, Blot them out in boundless grace……

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sheila You are such an encouragement to me! Thank you for sharing those amazing lyrics! An outer transformation is so much easier than the genuine transformation of the heart. But just the promise that a changed heart is possible is enough to keep me surrendering! He is such a faithful relational God. Those who seek Him have the chance to experience the most incredible love story! Blessings to you Lovely xx

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  2. NeLLXO said,

    Thank you so much for inviting me to read this post. And you said mine was more eloquent! Hardly! I think you did a beautiful job telling the story of your faith walk; it should encourage anyone who feels too flawed to turn to the Lord. I could say so many things in response to everything you wrote, but I won’t write you a novel. Not today, anyway! 🙂

    However, I do want to comment on what you were saying about it feeling almost strange to have never been viewed as particularly “religious” on the outside, yet now you find yourself leading a faith-based organization. Isn’t that such an awesome thing? He seems to love selecting the people who would normally be deemed as “unqualified” (due to their perceived weaknesses) to do His work. However, He always manages to take the broken, fix them and elevate them to a place they never could have imagined being.

    I also totally identified with what you were saying about people judging you the minute they find out you’ve gone “religious”. I too have wondered how the friends I made in my “former life” view me now that I’m more open about my faith. You never want to make people feel as though you’ve “changed”, but haven’t we? Once again, excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow Nell! (I hope I can call you that) haha. Thank you so much for reading my post. I completely agree and am so encouraged by your comment. Yes we have changed. Thank God! Only we haven’t changed to become what is assumed. We have become closer to who we were always longing to be. I once heard someone say “If you are the same person you were 10 years ago then you’ve just wasted a decade!” I love that we aren’t set in stone and can be altered by Grace. I am so thrilled God saw fit to use me in the way He does. Thanks so much for confirming that! 😘

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  3. Cindy said,

    While I’m more Buddhist than Christian, I related to your experiences and reflections. Life is a miracle and brings wholeness to those who are broken.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your encouragement Cindy! I truly believe we can all connect in some ways to this feeling of brokeness. And my hope is that this post encourages the broken to find hope in authenticity rather than clinging to the mask. Xx

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  4. […] in the process of purging our inner enemies! Even afterwards, we aren’t sin-free because we intercede for others, we experience sin, even if its not coming from within our own hearts. This deliverance […]

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  5. […] written many times before, in my posts The Beauty of Hell and Are You Chasing People Away?  and Religion Vs Relationship, if you want to be obliterated in open debate, then tell someone they’re headed for Eternal […]

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